Mastering is arguably of the most commonly misunderstood parts of music production.
Audio mastering is the final stage in the creation of a track, and it (more or less) means making the song louder, AND creating a fully-balanced, polished final track. It should also give you an end product that is more translatable to various speakers and devices.
It’s fairly common for a producer or artist to hand off their mixes to an external mastering engineer. Why? Mastering involves a lot of intricate processes that, if not done correctly, can completely ruin your track.
However, as accessible audio technology / digital audio software improves, more and more producers seem to be opting to master their music themselves. The benefit here is total, unrestricted, creative control.
Free Mastering Plugins?
If you are considering mastering your own tracks, the best place to start is by downloading some high quality mastering VST plugins.
There are many incredibly powerful mastering VST plugins available, and all DAWs will come with one or two decent mastering tools.
However, if you’re not ready to reach for your wallet just yet, there are a great selection of free mastering plugins that are capable of incredible results.
Below are the best free mastering VST plugins in 2022, that will give you professional mastering quality without ever spending a penny.
The Best FREE Mastering VST Plugins in 2022 (+ download links)
1. Voxengo SPAN
SPAN by Voxengo is an absolute no-brainer if you’re delving into the world of audio mastering.
This freeware is a hugely popular, real-time audio spectrum analyzer with a ton of flexibility and control of your sound.
Voxengo have included almost every feature you’d find in a commercial spectral analyzer plugin into this free software. It’s incredibly intuitive, with a clear, no-nonsense interface. You can even customize the plugin’s color scheme and the audio spectrum display style.
On a more technical note, SPAN also features output level metering with adjustable ballistics and integration time, EBU R128, K-system metering (including calibration K-system metering). SPAN displays level metering statistics, headroom estimation, correlation metering and true peak clipping detection.
This plugin has been around a while (though it is constantly updated and improved), and has proved itself to be one of the most comprehensive, FREE mastering plugin options out there.
Limiting is an essential part of the mastering process, so you’re going to need a high quality limiter plugin.
Limiter No6 is easily one of the most popular options when it comes to free mastering plugins.
The No6 engine has 5 modules: RMS compressor, peak limiter, high-frequency limiter, clipper and true peak limiter. Each of these modules uses different high-quality signal processes and gives incredible results for mastering.
The wide selection of parameters does seem a little daunting at first, but after a bit of experimentation, the plugin is surprisingly intuitive and logical. It’s fair to say Limiter No6 is capable of more of less everything the paid alternatives can do (and in some cases maybe even more!)
Please note: the view shown above is an optional (and far superior) skin for Limiter No6.
Available for both Mac/Windows and 32-bit/64-bit.
3. TDR Nova
Final master EQ adjustments are very common during the mastering process, so you’re going to need a versatile, free EQ plugin to sculpt your final EQ.
NOVA is a free parallel dynamic equalizer that is perfect for both beginner and advanced producers.
The standout feature of this EQ plugin is that each band also includes a full featured dynamics section allowing the processor to cover an impressively wide range of possible EQ options. This is something I haven’t seen in any other free EQ plugin.
Some of the creative possibilities of TDR Nova include:
- Parametric equalization
- Dynamic equalization
- Frequency selective compression
- Multi-band compression
- Wideband compression
This is the free version of the incredible, comprehensive EQ plugin TDR Nova GE. You can check out the full version here.
Stereo Tool v3 is a fantastic stereo imaging tool for balancing the stereo spread of your final track.
This free plugin offers ultra-precise control of input gain and individual pan for left and right channels, accurate visual feedback reflecting the signal content with; a vector scope, PPM meters for inputs/outputs, phase correlation meter permanently monitoring the signal and individual left and right polarity reversal.
This is a perfect plugin for fixing out-of-phase sounds and other balancing issues. Highly recommend!
Clipshifter is an example of a limiter plugin with a horizontal visual waveform viewer, making it very easy to clip certain peaks while not affecting others.
For a free limiter plugin, Clipshifter has a decent amount of features for fine-tuning and perfecting your clipping settings. For example, this plugin can function as a static limiter, or can accurately respond to the transient qualities of an incoming signal. You can set the clipping threshold to either rise or fall as a result of changing audio levels.
It’s not the best looking plugin in the world, but because of it’s basic design it’s noticeably light on CPU-usage, making it perfect for multiple loadings.
Available for both Mac/Windows and 32-bit/64-bit.